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NASA chip can take the heat: 1,700 hours of continuous operation at 500 degrees Celsius

Heat is the enemy when it comes to silicon. One of the primary goals for system designers and overclockers is to find ways to keep chips cool, usually by relying on innovative, or extreme, cooling methods.

The scientists at NASA, however, appear to have approached the issue of heat from another angle – to design a chip that can operate at intensely hot temperatures. NASA claims that its new chip, which it terms as the “silicon carbide differential amplifier integrated circuit,” in tests exceeded 1,700 hours of continuous operation at 500 degrees Celsius. Typical computer chips malfunction after just hours of extreme temperatures.

"It's really a significant step toward mission-enabling harsh environment electronics," said Phil Neudeck, an electronics engineer and team lead for this work by the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate at NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

As the special processor can withstand high temperatures, the requirement for elaborate cooling measures may be unnecessary. Freeing the need for cooling could enable more streamlined and reliable designs.

"This new capability can eliminate the additional plumbing, wires, weight and other performance penalties required to liquid-cool traditional sensors and electronics near the hot combustion chamber, or the need to remotely locate them elsewhere where they aren't as effective," added Neudeck.

NASA believes that this breakthrough, that it claims represents a 100-fold tolerance increase in what has previously been achieved, could lead to improved safety and fuel efficiency as well as reduced emissions from jet engines. The chip would also apply to other space exploration applications, for example, robotic exploration on the hostile surface environment of Venus.

For on-Earth uses, the temperature-resilient chip could also be used in long-lasting high temperature environments, such as oil and natural gas well drilling. Further down the line, and cost permitting, the chip would have its uses inside automotive engines.

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Can anyone say ...
By webdawg77 on 9/11/2007 4:45:01 PM , Rating: 3
Over-clocking Potential! Of course, make sure not to melt your MB.

RE: Can anyone say ...
By Master Kenobi on 9/11/2007 4:51:14 PM , Rating: 2
Use in space is more like it. We could put this on craft that might have to deal with extreme heat.

RE: Can anyone say ...
By 16nm on 9/11/2007 5:13:29 PM , Rating: 4
Yes, absolutely.

This small feat in chip engineering seems remarkable to me.

How hot is hell because 500C must not be far off. Hey, maybe Intel could start producing a line of these and call them Intel InHell processors. Lol

RE: Can anyone say ...
By PrinceGaz on 9/12/2007 9:52:42 AM , Rating: 5
There is some information available on the temperature of hell.

The exact temperature of hell cannot be computed but it must be less than 444.6°C, the temperature at which brimstone or sulfur changes from a liquid to a gas. Revelations 21:8: But the fearful and unbelieving... shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone." A lake of molten brimstone [sulfur] means that its temperature must be at or below the boiling point, which is 444.6°C. (Above that point, it would be a vapor, not a lake.)

There is the small point that if hell is at a higher pressure than the surface of the Earth, the boiling point of sulphur would be above 445°C. Unless the pressure is really extreme however, it is likely to be below 500°C and therefore the chip would be able to operate there.

It's worth noting that the chip may not operate for long in heaven...

The temperature of heaven can be rather accurately computed. Our authority is the Bible, Isaiah 30:26 reads, Moreover, the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold as the light of seven days. Thus, heaven receives from the moon as much radiation as the earth does from the sun, and in addition seven times seven (forty nine) times as much as the earth does from the sun, or fifty times in all. The light we receive from the moon is one ten-thousandth of the light we receive from the sun, so we can ignore that. With these data we can compute the temperature of heaven: The radiation falling on heaven will heat it to the point where the heat lost by radiation is just equal to the heat received by radiation. In other words, heaven loses fifty times as much heat as the earth by radiation. Using the Stefan-Boltzmann fourth power law for radiation (H/E)4 = 50 where E is the absolute temperature of the earth, 300°K (273+27). This gives H the absolute temperature of heaven, as 798° absolute (525°C).

The chip may be able to tolerate the 525°C of heaven for a limited period, but probably a lot less that it could operate in hell.

RE: Can anyone say ...
By MGSsancho on 9/12/2007 2:05:06 AM , Rating: 4
current chips sold in commercial systems are rated and tested at 125C. that includes mobo and cpu. problem is case expands at different rates then a mobo.

Ice Cream
By Sungpooz on 9/11/2007 5:11:53 PM , Rating: 3
Wouldn't we want to make all the other components of a system heat-resistant before we throw them into the sun?...

I'm not sure what they've made heat-resistant yet but having just the processor by itself doesn't push forward radical new design changes unless other heat-resistant pieces are implemented too (which may exist outside my finite knowledge).

RE: Ice Cream
By Hyperlite on 9/11/2007 5:16:47 PM , Rating: 2
well the proc is probably the hardest part of that whole package as far a heat resistance goes, so at least they have that out of the way. its a leap in the right direction.

RE: Ice Cream
By Suomynona on 9/11/2007 5:40:04 PM , Rating: 1
Actually processors are probably the most heat-resistant parts of a computer, because they have to be. The real question is what kind of solder can handle these temperatures?

RE: Ice Cream
By TomZ on 9/11/2007 5:47:54 PM , Rating: 3
You wouldn't solder, you would weld instead.

RE: Ice Cream
By MGSsancho on 9/12/2007 2:09:11 AM , Rating: 2
well they stopped using lead to be RoHS complaint. So they moved to tin. maybe they will use copper. I'll ask my sources and report back about whos making the mobo

RE: Ice Cream
By HighWing on 9/12/2007 1:35:32 PM , Rating: 1
That was the first thing I was thinking too. Would really suck to get your board all done and attach to a a jet engine, or whatever other hot environment the article mentions, only to find out that some other component can't take the heat.

After all, the processor is kinda useless unless it is connected to something, and you are only as strong as your weakest link.

By DeepBlue1975 on 9/11/2007 7:36:51 PM , Rating: 3
I'd like my kentsfield and every other chip in my PC to be made like that, so I could kill several birds on one shot:

1- no more RAM wasting on temperature monitoring software
2- no more budget on cooling solutions: I'd make the "baddest" overclocking attempts just by using a 10 year old Cyrix 6x86 run-of-the-mill aluminium wannabe heatsink (fan removed) glued to my CPU with just some adhesive tape.
3- no need for a heater on even the harshest of the winters: I'd just leave the case's side open and throw the HSF away.
4- silent PC! Just gotta put those weak hdds somewhere else. (enter Wii-SATA-fi, wireless, motion sensitive hard disks which you can also use as joysticks when they totally break appart becoming useless as storage devices)
5- My PC would make every girl in the world really hot as soon as they get near the darn machine.
6- With the hot CPU, I'd get a free UMO (Ultra Mobile Oven)

RE: sweet!
By kitchme on 9/11/2007 8:50:38 PM , Rating: 2
You forgot the last one
7-A dam and a river to cool off your house to a livable temperature.

RE: sweet!
By idconstruct on 9/11/2007 10:57:07 PM , Rating: 2
just because it can tolerate extreme temperatures doesn't mean your computer is gonna start cooking your burgers for you...

in a home computer, the only difference would be that you won't need a heatsink... and your room would actually be cooler since there isn't a fan dissipating the heat

Not a processor...
By eilersr on 9/11/2007 7:56:40 PM , Rating: 5
If you dig into the details, you'll learn that what they built is not a processor, like a CPU or GPU, but an analog chip.

They built a differential amplifier, which is a class of operational amplifiers, a basic building block of most analog circuits.

This is useful for a variety of applications, but targeted mostly at sensors and instrumentation, such as taking readings from inside a jet engine.

See the link to the announcement:

The types of circuits and transistors used in the chip typically wouldn't be well suited to building fast logic chips.

RE: Not a processor...
By darkpaw on 9/12/2007 3:25:36 PM , Rating: 2
Glad someone posted this, just read the article now and all the other comments really missed the mark. Op-amps are components not processors. This is still an impressive acheivement and likely to lead to yet more discoveries, but it isn't a processor.

PS3 Test
By Koder on 9/11/2007 5:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
When this technology trickles down, we may one day be able to play our PS3's in a hot oven, let alone a sauna.

...and you can bet that Sony execs will boast about it. ;)

RE: PS3 Test
By cheetah2k on 9/12/2007 12:52:48 AM , Rating: 3
I was thinking maybe Microsoft could use this in their Xbox 360's to reduce the number of RROD's

RE: PS3 Test
By HighWing on 9/12/2007 1:31:27 PM , Rating: 1
I'm guessing you missed the article here and on the web where they tried to kill a PS3 buy doing just that, and surprise, it didn't die.

Though I'll be the first to comment that while they tested it in a hot environment, I don't think that quite accounts for keeping it in a tight space and covering up some of the air vents. Which is the case with most people's normal operating conditions.

So What?
By Mitch101 on 9/11/2007 8:18:10 PM , Rating: 3
Intel did this with the Pentium 4 Prescott. :)

RE: So What?
By Bluestealth on 9/11/2007 11:21:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well they did, as long as you didn't mind your computer randomly shutting off.

Well... I guess most of this random shutdowns were caused by Toshiba's completely inadequate cooling solution on their Pentium 4 mobile laptops. What a show those were, I am glad they came out with Pentium M, and later Core/Core 2.

Re: Xbox 360
By Brandon Hill on 9/11/2007 6:19:04 PM , Rating: 3
Microsoft, are you listening? :-)

Space Heater
By PrimarchLion on 9/11/2007 5:21:48 PM , Rating: 2
If this means I can overclock a couple more GHz I think I could put up with a 1000+ degree F box sitting two feet from my legs.

By Golgatha on 9/11/2007 5:56:42 PM , Rating: 2
When you need to fry and egg or operate a land rover on Mars, you can always depend on Intel. Heck, do both with no performance loss using the new high voltage, dual-core Prescotts!

Uplink from Venus
By 4p1e on 9/16/2007 1:05:45 AM , Rating: 2
This makes an long term uplink from
Venus(Surface temp ~400C)possible.

The Russian soft landing probes (30 yrs ago)lasted for only about an hour before the electronics "fried".

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